Note: This is one of six articles on my time in England, United Kingdom from December 2016 to January 2017. Not every one of them follows what I did during that particular day, but also follows the culture, lifestyles, and interest in the area. Articles will be published twice a week until complete.
If you step foot into a British souvenir shop you will find a plethora of items, including: snow globes with Big Ben, royal guard rubber ducks, figurines of the iconic telephone booths, and shirts saying “Mind the Gap.” That same phrase is used throughout the entire underground metro system, or the Tube, which is one of the most interesting aspects of London in my opinion. It sprawls underneath the entire city, going from neighborhoods to Piccadilly Circus to Waterloo to King’s Cross Station and helps people get to and from everything they could possibly need in their daily lives.
For my experience in London, this method of transport was exceptionally useful. From our nearest station at Highgate, we could go anywhere, from Platform 9 3/4 to Tower Bridge to Big Ben. It was my first time on a metro, so that was new and exciting for me!
There are eleven lines used by the Underground, in addition to the bus and train systems. The spread from the central areas of London to neighborhoods like Muswell Hill, Notting Hill, South Bank, and more. For example, the nearest station to Muswell Hill was Highgate, which was a short bus ride away from where we stayed. Some of the stations even take you straight up to some of the big sights, such as Westminster which opens right up to Big Ben and Parliament. Most lines are open generally open from 05:00 to 00:00 throughout the week (except for Sunday, which has different hours), with some select lines running with night services on weekends too. Each station typically varies slightly so it is important to check that out before you go! Maps are also helpful and can be downloaded for no charge.
Additionally, some stations are only for the Tube, but some of the larger ones include train access as well. One of those is King’s Cross/St. Pancreas, which is one of the most beautiful stations and home to Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. This place also has some super cool architecture as well, so make sure to stop by. Another popular train station is Waterloo, which is the one that we used to travel to Bournemouth. Even though we had never been on a train, it was easy to navigate and figure out where we need to be.
If there is any piece of advice I can pass on to you, it would certainly be to download Tube Map – London Underground. This app is made by Mapway Limited and is absolutely essential for easy travel around the city. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without it. It doesn’t use data if you are only navigating the Tube -which is helpful if overseas phone plans are a concern- and is compatible with Apple Watches too. You can not only see a map, but also enter a desired destination and it will give the fastest route, making travel simple and stress free. If you opt for notifications, it can also let you know if there is an issue causing delays.
If the metro isn’t your only travel option, the app will also share information on the bus and Uber prices, providing you with the cheapest or fastest routes, which is helpful for tight budgets. Overall, this app was a complete lifesaver and I would highly recommend using it. Mapway Limited also has apps for other cities and their metros like New York, Madrid, Dubai, and more.
Another tidbit of advice would be to get some form of the Oyster card, which is London’s underground and bus pass. The visitor card is the most convenient and saves a lot of money and time. When we were there, we borrowed actual Oyster cards from our hosts and they allowed us to get through much more smoothly than the clumsy paper single tickets that people had. You can get different levels of credit, ranging from £15 to £50, but luckily, there is a price cap, so you won’t spend more than £7 a day in Central London. Other Oyster options can include visits to the main attractions as well, so you could save money that way as well. Either way, getting the card in advance would be exceptionally helpful during your trip.
Also, I have never been on other metro systems yet, so I don’t have a comparison, but the London metro seemed exceptionally clean to me. I never felt gross and there wasn’t overflowing trash or grimy benches. Overall it felt super well organized and put together. If you are in London, I would totally advise using this method of travel wholeheartedly to save money and time!